World War: Campaign for Eastland
Copyright© 2018 by Lazlo Zalezac
General Santini asked, “Are the surface to air missile systems ready?”
“They are ready.”
“Every fighter jet in the theater is flying a holding pattern.”
“They’re ready to take off.”
General Santini studied the map one last time. It looked like everything was ready to go. “Tell them to open fire.”
It took nearly a minute for the order to make its way down the chain of command to the men who actually would do the fighting. There was a measured sequence of artillery guns firing, one at a time. The tanks fired their guns.
“What?” he barked. He was ready to go out to see what could be seen through binoculars.
“I’m getting a report from the fourth brigade of the third division. They say they are under attack by a division level force.”
General Santini strode over to the map table and looked at the map. It took him a second to locate the fourth brigade of the third division. It was one of the brigades that he’d sent off to hold the territory behind him. There wasn’t supposed to be any Jade forces any where near that position.
“Son, are you sure you got the right brigade?”
“General! I just got another report. It’s from the first brigade of the first division. They’re getting bombed.”
General Santini said, “Someone get in touch with our bombers. I want to know what the hell they’re doing.”
“It can’t be our bombers. They just took off.”
“Then send our jet fighters over the first brigade to take out those bombers. We’ve got to protect them.”
Colonel Kline said, “General.”
“The Jade army is not firing back.”
“Of course they aren’t. They’re getting shelled.”
“The tanks should be firing back and they aren’t.”
“Give me those photographs from the morning fly over.”
A stack of photographs were quickly thrust in his direction. General Santini flipped through the pictures. As far as he could tell, there was an army there.
“I don’t know why they aren’t firing back, but they aren’t.”
Thinking he was beginning to hate the guy on the radio, he shouted, “What?”
“The second brigade of the first division is reporting that they are under fire from a division size force.”
General Santini looked at the map table. This was not making sense. The closest enemy forces to the second brigade of the first division was the division that was chasing his second division. They could have veered off, but they hadn’t gotten any reports of them having done that.
“What is it?”
“I’ve got a report from air command.”
“What is it?”
“A shitload of jet fighters came off the deck behind our fighters and are blowing our guys right out of the sky.”
“A shitload. That’s what it says.”
General Santini reached over and grabbed some markers. He dropped a division marker next to the fourth brigade of the third division. He dropped a second division marker next to the second brigade of the first division. He dropped a marker for a bomber squadron over the first brigade of the first division. He tossed a marker for a fighter squadron over the area where his fighters were supposed to be waiting to be called in. It didn’t make sense, there were just too many markers on the map table.
“A Sergeant from the second brigade of the first division has just called in that the brigade’s position has been over run.”
“What in the hell is a Sergeant doing reporting that?”
“He said he was the highest ranking man left.”
“Get someone over there back on the radio. I want a report.”
“General. The third brigade of the first division just radioed that they are being bombed.”
“General, I can’t get anyone from the second brigade on the radio.”
“General, I can’t get anyone from the first brigade of the first division.”
“General. I can’t get anyone from the fourth brigade of the third division.”
Colonel Kline said, “General. The Jade army is not firing back. I don’t think anyone is actually there.”
“Colonel, is there any radio chatter coming from their encampment?”
“What are they saying?”
“That they’re getting shelled.”
“Then there is an army there.”
“Unless the radio chatter is computer controlled.”
“I’ve got a report from Air Command. Our jet fighters are gone.”
“None of them survived.”
“General, there are tank killers on the horizon.”
Hearth Jon looked down at the crib. The emaciated infant lay in a smear of dried excrement. There wasn’t even a diaper to be found anywhere near the crib. He looked over at the other crib in the room finding the infant there in the same circumstance.
He turned and walked out of the room. A kid about four years old stood there looking at him. The tattered clothes he was wearing were filthy. The kid picked his nose.
Hearth Jon asked, “Where are the people who work here?”
The kid pointed down the hallway. He could hear the television playing in the direction the kid pointed. The door at the room at the end of the hallway was closed.
Hearth Jon pulled out an energy bar. He knelt down and asked, “Would you like an energy bar?”
The kid looked at him blankly.
He added, “It’s a kind of food.”
The kid’s eyes were suddenly riveted to the energy bar. He nodded his head. When Hearth Jon held it out, the kid grabbed it and ran.
Sword Alex looked over at Hearth Jon and nodded his head. “Do it.”
Hearth Jon touched the button activating his microphone. In Elvish he said, “I need a full response team at the Maple Street Orphanage, police, nurses, caretakers, and carpenters. I want the building sealed. Bring wood for stakes and crosses.”
“Stakes or crosses?”
“Stakes for sure. If we find a body, we’ll need crosses.”
Shield Pua said, “You take care of the babies. I’ll watch the door.”
She stood at the door thinking it was hard to guard with tears in the eyes. She listened to the quiet talk between Sword Alex and Hearth Jon. It didn’t sound to her like the babies were going to make it.
The kid returned pulling an older girl by the hand. Upon spotting Shield Pua, the girl knelt down and said something to the kid. The kid nodded and took off without looking back. Skittish as a new born colt, the girl approached. Shield Pua guessed she was about ten maybe a little more.
Shield Pua pulled out an energy bar and held it out for the girl. The girl looked at it. She turned to look down the hall. Then she called out, “Kevin. Come and get some more food.”
The same kid came running down the hall.
“We already gave him food.”
“He gave it to his sister.”
“Are you his sister?”
“No. I’m just the oldest here. I take care of the littler ones.”
“How many kids are here?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know numbers,” the girl said looking like she was on the verge of tears.
Shield Pua said, “I need more energy bars out here.”
“All you’ve got.”
There was a loud ripping sound from the room. She figured they had torn a sheet to make something that could hold the energy bars. She started fishing energy bars out from various pockets inside her armor. Jade Warriors were never without food.
A bundle appeared over her shoulder. She grabbed it. She opened it and put her energy bars in with the others. Between the three of them there were at least two dozen bars.
Handing the bundle over to the girl, she said, “Hand these out to the kids. Start with the youngest. Give as many of them as you can a half bar. We’ll have some more here soon.”
The girl and the boy disappeared around the corner. Furious, Shield Pua said, “I’ll hammer in the nails myself.”
Colonel King watched the lone figure walking towards him wondering what the man wanted. The man was carrying a white flag. Even at this long distance, it was obvious that the man was a Jade Warrior. Rather than wait all day for the guy to reach him, he decided he’d drive out to the man.
“Does anyone have a white cloth?”
Colonel King said, “Somebody around here has to have a white cloth.”
“There’s no white cloth.”
“I need a white cloth if I’m going to go out and parley under a flag of truce.”
“Sorry, Sir. There just aren’t any white cloths around here.”
“We’ve got some of those.”
“Good. Tie some to the antenna of my vehicle.”
“One or two sheets?”
Colonel King looked at the Private.
“Never mind. I’ll figure it out.”
Colonel King shouted, “Major Lewis!”
He looked at the figure through his binoculars. Now that the person was a little closer he wondered if it was a woman. The problem with the Jade Warriors wearing armor was that it was often difficult to distinguish gender from a distance. He’d only seen a couple of them during this campaign. Usually that was a sign that things were about to become really unpleasant.
“What do you need Colonel?”
“I’m going out to parley with the Jade Warrior that’s headed our way. I don’t know what he wants, but I’m pretty sure he isn’t here to surrender to me.”
“That would be a real kicker, wouldn’t it?”
“I can’t tie a paper towel to the antenna. It keeps ripping and tearing. How about I just place the whole roll on the antenna?”
“That will be fine, Private.”
“Until I get back, you’re in command.”
“Are you talking to me?”
“No Private. I was talking to the Major.”
“I’ll take care of things here.”
“Good luck,” Colonel King said.
The Colonel climbed into his vehicle. His driver chuckled while starting the vehicle. Colonel King said, “Not one word.”
“Let’s go talk to our visitor.”
The driver put the truck into gear and eased off on the clutch. He said, “You should know not to grab the nearest private. He’s the one who is too stupid to stay away.”
“Not one word.”
“Stop the truck.”
The Colonel got out and tore off the sheets of paper towels that had unwrapped in the ten feet they had driven. He stuck his head in the truck and said, “I need your boot lace.”
The driver held out a short length of wire. He said, “You might want to use this instead.”
The Colonel wrapped the wire around the roll of paper towels and then twisted it tight. The paper towels were not going to unravel now. He climbed back into the truck and said, “Go.”
They rode along without talking. As they got closer it was easy to see that it was a woman. He took a deep breath. He wasn’t exactly prejudiced, but he was of the old school that thought women did not belong on a battlefield.
The driver stopped short of the Jade Warrior and put the truck into neutral. Colonel King opened the door and climbed out. The Jade Warrior looked at the Colonel and then at the roll of paper towels on the antenna and then back at the Colonel.
“We aren’t going to surrender. As a result, we don’t have a white flag.”
“Colonel King. I am Sword Tia.”
“What can I do for you?”
“I have come here to offer the coalition forces a truce for one week.”
“Why would we want a truce?”
“To collect your dead.”
“We don’t have any dead,” Colonel King said pointedly.
Sword Tia pulled out a map and held it for Colonel King to see. She pointed to a spot that was marked on the map. She said, “We took out two divisions here. That’s approximately twenty eight thousand dead. We took a brigade here. That one was about four thousand dead. We took out a brigade here. That was about three thousand dead. This brigade is about three thousand. This last one, we guess it was about forty-five hundred. It is about forty-two thousand five hundred total.”